November 2015

Techniques: Remixing Bach

The master composer of the Baroque era, J.S. Bach has had his music reinvented in nearly every other genre.

National Standards: 2, 5, 9

Prepare: Have the class read Remixing Bach (page 24 of the student edition). The article provides examples of famous Bach pieces that have been adapted by popular artists.

Listen to a playlist of audio samples illustrating the examples from the article:

NotionappClick here to download the files for audio playback on the Notion app.

Key points in the article:

  • Johann Sebastian Bach, a prolific composer of the Baroque period, is still known as one of the greatest composers, in part for his use of counterpoint.
  • Counterpoint is a technique where the overlap of multiple voices within a piece create harmony, a method used before the modern way we play chords.
  • Bach’s work is easily adaptable to different genres, and has been adapted to jazz, electronica, rock, metal, and more.
  • Bach’s music is in the public domain and can be found online for free. See links below!
Links to Public Domain Score Repositories:

» IMSLP Petrucci Music Library, sharing the world’s public domain music
» ChoralWiki, home of the Choral Public Domain Library

Begin: Have the class form groups and try sight-reading the examples on their instruments. Exercises might include:

  • Having two partners read the right and left hand parts of Example 1, an excerpt from a Bach Two-Part Invention.
  • Having a bass instrument and melodic instrument pair up to play Example 2, an excerpt from Prelude and Fugue in C minor.
  • Pairing students up to play Example 4, an excerpt from Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor.

Develop: Play the following video of Chris Thile from the Punch Brothers performing a Bach piece on the mandolin:

How does the performance compare and contrast to an original Bach rendition?

  • The adaptation features Bach on a folk instrument
  • The piece provides an example of counterpoint in the multiple voices
  • The use of the mandolin gives the performance a bluegrass feel

Expand: Play the following video of the Jacques Loussier Trio performing a Bach jazz arrangement:

How does this differ from the first performance?

  • The music is arranged for an ensemble
  • The style is adapted to jazz
  • Bach’s originally written harmonies are preserved